One of the toughest decisions a country mum has to make is where to send her children to school. Lynise Conaghan from Barmount Station, outside Clarke Creek in Central Queensland, remembers agonising over this decision when her eldest was set to start boarding school over 12 years ago.
“There is no high school where we live. We had to find a boarding school that catered to the individual needs of each of our children, and one that was reflective of our own core values,” Ms Conaghan says.
Her youngest, Tessa (now 15), began boarding at The Rockhampton Grammar School (RGS) when she was only 11 years old. “Even though Tess was our last child to attend boarding school at RGS, it was still a challenging and difficult time. Handing over the job of looking after your child to someone else is really hard,” she admits.
Reminiscing about her daughter’s send-off, Lynise jokes, “Sometimes the cow feels worse than the calf,” but her feelings of anxiety were eased by the fact that Tessa loved her second home.
“Tess loves boarding. She is happy, she has lots of friends and she is supported by a great team of boarding staff. Knowing that she is settled and well cared for is reassuring to me as her mum.”
RGS is Queensland’s largest boarding school. Established in 1881, it understands the challenges that regional and remote families face, and works with parents to ensure students are supported.
“We make sure our students maintain their connections with home because that is very important. We make sure if they have any concerns that we are there to support them and ensure that they can shine in both their school work and their life,” says Dr Phillip Moulds, Headmaster at RGS.
The school’s close ties to the country and community also helped Tessa’s parents embrace the transition. They knew their children would be surrounded by staff and students with similar backgrounds and values to their own.
“What I like the most about Rockhampton Grammar is that it has clearly demonstrated an interest and compassion for families from geographically isolated areas. They just get it,” says Ms Conaghan.
“Agriculture is a key part of our lives and the kids have been actively involved in our farm business. While we wanted a school that could offer a diverse range of subjects, we also wanted to ensure there was a clear pathway to pursue opportunities in agriculture.”
The school’s agricultural facilities, including a demonstration farm and working cattle station, enable students from rural backgrounds to maintain their connection to the land and thrive in an interactive learning environment.
RGS believes its students are tomorrow’s leaders and job-makers and that by investing in them and their education, they will go on to enrich regional communities with fresh solutions to emerging challenges.
“As Grammarians, agriculture runs thick in our blood. It is fundamental to our core business,” says Head of Agriculture, Hardy Manser.
“Agriculture is embedded across the curriculum, from Primary all the way through to the Certificate III in Agriculture and accelerated tertiary courses in Senior School. I feel we have a growing reputation as the best agricultural school around, and that is a feature that helps draw so many boarders to RGS – they are able to maintain their connection to the land.”
RGS is located in the middle of Queensland, making it feel closer to home for more than 300 boarders who mostly come from properties across Queensland and the Northern Territory. The school’s total enrolment from Prep through to Year 12 is about 1350 students.
In April 2019 it was named an ASG National Excellence in Teaching Awards recipient. Only 12 schools were awarded nationally from more than 2000 applications. The school’s emphasis on teaching excellence, leadership and the learning needs of individual students helped earn it the national title.
Highly regarded for excellent education outcomes, the school is described by The Weekend Australian as among the top country schools in Australia and as one of Queensland’s top schools.
2018 comparative data (the latest available at time of publication) released by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) shows that students at RGS have significantly high outcomes, with the school having the largest OP eligible student population achieving the best results in Central Queensland.
135 Year 12 students, or nearly 80 per cent were OP eligible in 2018; 12 students received an OP1; 28 per cent received an OP1-5 and 70 per cent achieved an OP 1-10.
All students earned a Queensland Certificate of Education and the school issued 249 Certificates I-III (more than any other local school), acknowledging its equally strong offerings in vocational education.
To view Tessa’s video story, please click here. You can also take a virtual tour of The Rockhampton Grammar School at rgs.qld.edu.au/tour.